Among the cellists residing here in Salt Lake City, Elliott Cheney is a hidden gem. He doesn't play many recitals, but when he does he impresses his listeners with his cogent, articulate and dynamic readings.
This was driven home Sunday when Cheney played the first of two recitals devoted to the six suites for unaccompanied cello by J.S. Bach. (The second takes place next Sunday.)
These suites are demanding works, but Cheney showed that he possesses the technique and musicianship to give them their full due. Not only did he bring refinement and intelligence to his readings, he also infused his playing with expressiveness and an eloquence verging on poetry. With this kind of playing, one can only look forward to his next recital.
Sunday's performance was a remarkable evening of near-inspired musicmaking. Cheney proved he is a cellist of prodigious talent.
These works are extraordinary for Bach's creative inventiveness. Writing within the framework of dance forms, many of which were already ancient by the early 18th century, Bach was nevertheless able to fashion music that is almost heroic in character. Filled with wondrous counterpoint and bursting with emotion, these works epitomize the baroque era.
Cheney played the First, Third and Fifth Suites on Sunday evening to a large audience in Libby Gardner Concert Hall. These three are wonderfully diverse, and Cheney brought depth and fine perceptiveness to them in his interpretations. His readings were seamless, as well as exhibiting a dexterity that allowed him to play the delightfully virtuosic First Suite in G major, BWV 1009, with ease.The most expressive of the odd numbered works, Fifth Suite in C minor, BWV 1011, is also the most intense. There is a sense of tragedy that permeates this work, and Cheney managed to convey that to his audience with his insightful playing. His interpretation was wonderfully nuanced and he brought subtlety and feeling to his playing.